This has been a very difficult few years for everyone, to say the least. The pandemic, floods, fires and inflation rising beyond anyone’s means. Books and Netflix have been our escape.
Streaming apps provide an enormous amount of home entertainment to laugh and cry at the latest movie or your favourite show or series.
But books provide an escape into your imagination, a time to quiet the noise around you and travel into someone else’s world. Books teach about cultures and history. Immerse yourself in the beauty of words and adventures.
Avid reader Monique Tamminga, editor of the Penticton Western News is pairing her favourite books of 2023 with some of Okanagan’s best wines.
BEST BOOK OF 2023
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (author of Poisonwood Bible)
This Pulitzer Prize winning book is a heart-wrenching but tender story of Demon Copperhead, a boy born to a teenaged single mother living in a trailer who often leaves him for weeks at a time. Demon lives through the perils of neglect, physical abuse, then the horrific side of the foster care system, addiction and losses all the while carrying a hope and softness to him that will break your heart. Warning: This is a monster-sized book of 560 pages.
**** Pairs well with Township 7’s 2019 Merlot (Naramata and Langley). Pair Merlot with 70 per cent dark chocolate. Complexity and depth with overtones of cocoa makes this a classic merlot to come back to time and time again.
A BOOK FOR BOOK LOVERS
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – this book (available in paperback) has recently been made into a movie on PrimeTV. This might just be the sweetest story you’ll love to read right to its very last page. A.J. Fikry is a bookstore owner on a tiny island in the U.S. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But then a baby is dropped off in his bookstore with a note attached asking him to raise her and his world changes forever. Get out the tissues for this one.
***** pairs perfectly with a fuzzy blanket, fireplace and glass of Rudy Blues Red Stiletto – a perfect blend of deliciousness year after year (Naramata)
THRILLER OF THE YEAR
None of This is True by Lisa Jewell
As Lisa Jewell, the queen of thrillers, always does with her pyschological dark novels, None of This is True dives into the world of how sometimes it’s best to stay away from people you meet who raise red flags.
Celebrating her 45th birthday, popular podcaster Alix Summers crosses paths with a rather strange woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her 45th birthday. They meet in the bathroom and talk. Then Josie shows up at Alix’s children’s school and asks her to meet to talk. Slowly, Josie pulls Alix into her dark world of secrets. But then Josie disappears and now Alix’s life is in danger and her family’s.
Another thriller from this year is What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall. It’s a sleep with the lights on dark page turner. Over 20 years ago, a trio of best friends spent their summers roaming the woods until one day one of them was attacked, stabbed 17 times but lived to identify the serial killer who they testified against and put away. Decades later, one of the friends wants to share the secret they’ve been hiding since that day.
**** Pairs perfectly with Crown & Thieves Pinky Blinders Rosé from West Kelowna. This is a must-visit winery set inside a towering faux castle with its intriguing Speakeasy downstairs, Renaissance style tasting room and rooftop restaurant. (Speakeasy bathroom features a picture of old-town Penticton).
A BOOK THAT LEAVES
A LASTING IMPRESSION
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
This is Verghese’s first novel since the 2008 bestseller Cutting for Stone. This unforgettable epic tale is about a family in South India where at least one member of each generation dies by drowning. Spanning three generations, Covenant of Water is a story of family sacrifice with the backdrop of India also a main character in this beauty of a tale that will draw you in from the first page.
**** Pairs with Hester Creek Winery’s 2022 Pinot Gris. Hester Creek in Oliver won Best B.C. Winery of 2023. This classic white delivers on Okanagan fruits like peaches and nectarines and with a great finish just like the book.
MEMOIR OF A FRIEND
Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
While it came out late last year, it seems fitting to pick his memoir as a sad tale of difficult life that ended far too soon. Friends mega-star Matthew Perry was found dead in his hot tub on Oct. 28, 2023. He was just 54. His raw and telling biography came out when he was 53. It begins: “Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead.” He details his famed life, his family friendship with the Trudeaus and his long, painful struggle with addiction.
**** Pairs with alcohol-free wine ‘Ones’ Sparkling Rosé using grapes from Summerland. This off-dry bubbles with no preservatives is everything the real thing is in flavour without the headache that alcohol brings. Can be found in cans as well.
Okanagan Eats: Signature Chefs’ Recipes from B.C.’s Wine Valleys by Dawn Postnikoff and Joanne Sasvari
Released in September 2023, a collection of over 70 recipes from the Okanagan’s best chefs, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and wineries. Each recipe includes a suggested drink pairing.
Look forward to recipes from favourite wineries like Hillside, Poplar Grove, Mission Hill, Hester Creek to eateries like Naramata Inn, Row Fourteen and even Cannery Brewery. A beautifully hardcover picture book that celebrates just how good we have it in the Okanagan.
**** Pairs with any Okanagan wine, beer, cider or spirit and seasonal produce.